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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Ezekiel 20

 

 

Verse 1

And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the LORD, and sat before me.

Seventh year ... - namely, from the carrying away of Jeconiah (Ezekiel 1:2; Ezekiel 8:1). This computation was calculated to make them cherish the more ardently the hope of the restoration promised them in 70 years, for, when prospects are hopeless, years are not computed (Calvin).

Certain of the elders of Israel came to inquire of the Lord. The object of their inquiry, as in Ezekiel 14:1, is not stated: probably it was to ascertain the cause of the national calamities, and the time of their termination, as their false prophets assured them of a speedy restoration.


Verse 2

Then came the word of the LORD unto me, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 3

Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD Are ye come to inquire of me? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.

The chapter falls into two great parts, Ezekiel 20:1-32 and Ezekiel 20:33-44, where the chapter ought to end. In Ezekiel 20:1-32 there is the recital of the people's rebellions during five distinct periods:

(1) in Egypt,

(2) the wilderness,

(3) on the borders of Canaan, when a new generation arose,

(4) in Canaan,

(5) and in the time of the prophet. I will not be inquired of by you - because their moral state precluded them from capability of knowing the will of God (Psalms 66:18; Proverbs 28:9; John 7:17, "If any man will (Greek, wishes to) do His will, he shall know of the doctrine").


Verse 4

Wilt thou judge them, son of man, wilt thou judge them? cause them to know the abominations of their fathers:

Wilt thou judge them, son of man? wilt thou judge them? The emphatic repetition expresses, 'Wilt thou not judge? yes, judge them. There is a loud call for immediate judgment.' The Hebrew interrogative here is a command, not a prohibition (Maurer). Instead of spending time in teaching them, tell them of the abominations of their fathers, of which their own are the complement and counterpart, and which call for judgment.


Verse 5-6

And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD In the day when I chose Israel, and lifted up mine hand unto the seed of the house of Jacob, and made myself known unto them in the land of Egypt, when I lifted up mine hand unto them, saying, I am the LORD your God;

In the day when I ... lifted up mine hand ... lifted up mine hand ... lifted up mine hand unto them. The thrice lifting up of God's hand (the sign of His oath, Revelation 10:5-6; Exodus 6:8, margin; Numbers 14:30; to which passages the form of words here alludes) implies the solemn earnestness of God's purpose of grace to them. The lifting up of the hand toward heaven was the appeal of man to Him who reigns there. When He Himself, in figurative language, lifts it up, it is His declaration of His power and faithfulness in fulfilling His Word, the hand being the symbol of power and faithfulness to an engagement.

When I ... made myself known unto them - proving myself faithful and true by the actual fulfillment of my promises (Exodus 4:31; Exodus 6:3); revealing myself as "Yahweh" - i:e., not that the name was unknown before, but that then first the force of that name was manifested in the promises of God then being realized in performances.

Verse 6. To bring them forth of the land of Egypt into a land that I had espied for them, flowing with milk and honey - as though God had spied out all other lands, and chose Canaan as the best of all lands (Deuteronomy 8:7-8. See Daniel 8:9, "the pleasant land;" Daniel 11:16; Daniel 11:41, "the glorious land;" see margin, 'goodly land,' 'land of delight or ornament;' Zechariah 7:14, "the pleasant land," or land of desire).

Which is the glory of all lands - i:e., Canaan was "the beauty of all lands;" the most lovely and delightful land; "milk and honey" are not the antecedent to "which" - "a land that I had espied for them" is its antecedent.


Verse 7

Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes. Moses gives no formal statement of idolatries practiced by Israel in Egypt. But it is implied in their readiness to worship the golden calf, resembling the Egyptian ox, Apis (Exodus 32:1-35), which makes it likely they had worshipped such idols in Egypt. Also, in Leviticus 17:7, "They shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils (literally, las`iyrim (Hebrew #8163), 'unto he-goats,' the symbol of the false god Pan) after whom they have gone awhoring." The call of God by Moses was as much to them that they should separate from idols and follow Yahweh, as it was to Pharaoh to let them go forth. Exodus 6:6-7; Joshua 24:14, expressly mentions their idolatry "in Egypt." Hence, the need of their being removed out of the contagion of Egyptian idolatries by the exodus.

Every man - so universal was the evil.

The abominations of his eyes. It was not fear of their Egyptian masters, but their own lust of the eye that drew them to idols (Ezekiel 6:9; Ezekiel 18:6).


Verse 8-9

But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt.

Then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them ... But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen - i:e. (God speaking in condescension to human modes of conception), Their spiritual degradation deserved that I should destroy them, "but I wrought (namely, the deliverance 'out of ... Egypt') for my name's sake;" not for their merits (a rebuke to their national pride). God's "name" means the sum total of His perfections; to manifest these perfections, His gratuitous mercy abounding above their sins, yet without wrong being done to His justice, and so to set forth His glory, was and is the ultimate end of His dealings (Ezekiel 20:14; Ezekiel 20:22; 2 Samuel 7:23; Isaiah 63:12; Romans 9:17).


Verse 10

Wherefore I caused them to go forth out of the land of Egypt, and brought them into the wilderness.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 11

And I gave them my statutes, and shewed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them.

My judgment, which if a man do, he shall even live in them - quoted from Leviticus 18:5. Not 'by them,' as though they could justify a man, seeing that man cannot render the faultless obedience required, whereas the law curses everyone that continueth not in all things written in the law to do them (Galatians 3:10; Galatians 3:12). "By them" is the expression, indeed, in Romans 10:5; but there the design is to show that, IF man could obey all God's laws, he would be justified "by them" (Galatians 3:21); but he cannot: he therefore needs to have justification by "the Lord our righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6); then, having thus received life, "live," - i:e., maintains, enjoys, and exercises this life only in so far as he walks "in" the laws of God. So Deuteronomy 30:15-16. The Israelites, as a nation, had life already freely given to them by God's covenant of promise; the laws of God were designed to be the means of the outward expression of their spiritual life. As the natural life has its healthy manifestation in the full exercise of its powers, so their spiritual being as a nation was to be developed in vigour, or else decay, according as they did or did not walk in God's laws.


Verse 12

Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them.

I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them - a kind of sacramental pledge of the covenant of adoption between God and His people. The Sabbath is specified as a sample of the whole law, to show that the law is not merely precepts, but privileges, of which the Sabbath is one of the highest. Not that the Sabbath was first instituted at Sinai, as if it were an exclusively Jewish ordinance (for it was instituted in Paradise, in the time of man's innocence, Genesis 2:2-3); but it was then more formally enacted, when, owing to the apostasy of the world from the original revelation, one people was called out to be the covenant-people of God (Deuteronomy 5:15).

That they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them. The observance of the Sabbath contemplated by God was not a mere outward rest, but a spiritual dedication of the day to the glory of God and the good of man. Otherwise it would not be, as it is made, the pledge of universal sanctification (Exodus 31:13-17, "In the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy (literally, holiness) to the Lord," etc.; Isaiah 58:13-14). Virtually it is said, all sanctity will flourish or decay according as this ordinance is observed in its full spirituality or not.


Verse 13

But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.

But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness - they "rebelled" in the very place where death and terror were on every side, and where they depended on my miraculous bounty every moment.


Verse 14

But I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight I brought them out.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 15

Yet also I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands;

I lifted up my hand unto them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them - I swore against them (Psalms 95:11; Psalms 106:26) that I would not permit the generation that came out of Egypt to enter Canaan.


Verse 16

Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols.

Because they despised my judgments. The special reason is stated by Moses (Numbers 13:1-33; Numbers 14:1-45) to be that they, through fear, arising from the false report of the spies, wished to return to Egypt; the general reasons are stated here which lay at the root of their rejection of God's grace, namely, contempt of God and His laws, and love of idols. Indeed, the same general reason is implied in Numbers 14:22.

Their heart went after their idols - the fault lay in it (Psalms 78:37).


Verse 17

Nevertheless mine eye spared them from destroying them, neither did I make an end of them in the wilderness.

Nevertheless mine eye spared them. How marvelous that God should spare such sinners! His everlasting covenant explains it; His long-suffering standing out in striking contrast to their rebellions (Psalms 78:38; Jeremiah 30:11).


Verse 18

But I said unto their children in the wilderness, Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers, neither observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols:

But I said unto their children - being unwilling to speak anymore to the fathers, as being incorrigible.

Walk ye not in the statutes of your fathers. The traditions of the fathers are to be carefully weighed, not indiscriminately followed. He forbids the imitation of not only their gross sins, but even their plausible statutes (Calvin).


Verse 19

I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them;

I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes. It is an indirect denial of God, and a robbing Him of His due, to add man's inventions to His precepts.


Verse 20

And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God.

Hallow my sabbaths - (Jeremiah 17:22).


Verse 21

Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness.

Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me - though warned by the judgment on their fathers, the next generation also rebelled against God. The "kindness of Israel's youth, and love of her espousals in the wilderness" (Jeremiah 2:2-3), were only comparative (the corruption in later times being more general), and confined to the minority: as a whole, Israel at no time fully served God. Indeed, the "kindness and love" mentioned there refer to God's love and kindness to Israel, rather than Israel's to God. The "children" it was that fell into the fearful apostasy on the plains of Moab, at the close of the wilderness sojourn, when "the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab, and bowed down to their gods" (Numbers 25:1-2; Deuteronomy 31:27).


Verse 22

Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 23

I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries;

I lifted up mine hand unto them ... that I would scatter them. It was to that generation the threat of dispersion was proclaimed (Deuteronomy 28:64, "The Lord shall scatter thee among all people from the one end of the earth even to the other;" cf. Deuteronomy 29:4, "Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day").


Verse 24

Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 25

Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;

Wherefore I gave them also statutes ... not good - since they would not follow my statutes, that were good, "I gave them" their own (Ezekiel 20:18), and their fathers' statutes, "which were not good" - statutes spiritually corrupting, and finally, as the consequence, destroying them. Righteous retribution (Psalms 81:12; Hosea 8:11; Romans 1:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:11). Ezekiel 20:39 proves this view to be correct (cf. Isaiah 63:17). Thus on the plains of Moab (Numbers 25:1-18), in chastisement for the secret unfaithfulness to God in their hearts, He permitted Baal's worshippers to tempt them to idolatry (the ready success of the tempters, moreover, proving the inward unsoundness of the tempted), and this again ended necessarily in punitive judgments.


Verse 26

And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD.

I polluted them in their own gifts - not directly, 'but I judicially gave them up to pollute themselves.' A just retribution for their "polluting my sabbaths" (Ezekiel 20:24). This Ezekiel 20:26 is explanatory of Ezekiel 20:25. Their own sin I made their punishment.

Caused to pass through the fire - Fairbairn translates [ b


Verses 27-29

Therefore, son of man, speak unto the house of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me, in that they have committed a trespass against me.

Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed me ... when I had brought them into the land. The next period-namely, that which followed the settlement in Canaan; the fathers of the generation existing in Ezekiel's time walked in the same steps of apostasy as the generation in the wilderness.

Yet in this - not content with past rebellions, and not moved with gratitude for God's goodness, "yet in this" still further they rebelled.

Have blasphemed - `have insulted me' (Calvin).

Verse 28. Then they saw every high hill, and all the thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices - even those who did not sacrifice to pagan gods have offered "their sacrifices" in forbidden places.

There they presented the provocation of their offering - an offering as it were purposely made to provoke God.

There also they made their sweet savour - what ought to have been sweet became offensive by their corruptions. He specifies the various kinds of offerings, to show that in all alike they violated the law.

Verse 29. What is the high place whereunto ye go? - What is the meaning of this name? For my altar is not so called. What excellence do ye see in it, that ye go there, rather than to my temple, the only lawful place of sacrificing? The very name "high place" convicts you of sinning, not from ignorance, but perverse rebellion. The name thereof is called Bamah unto this day - this name ought to have been long since laid aside, along with the custom of sacrificing on high places, which it represents, being borrowed from the pagan, who so called their places of sacrifice (the Greeks, for instance, called them by a cognate term, boomoi, whereas I call mine [ mizbeeach (Hebrew #4196)] "altar." So Grotius explains. The very name implies the place is not that sanctioned by me, and therefore your sacrifices even to ME there (much more those you offer to idols) are only a "provocation" to me (Ezekiel 20:28; Deuteronomy 12:1-5). David and others, it is true, sacrificed to God on high places, but it was under exceptional circumstances, and before the altar was set up on mount Moriah.


Verse 30

Wherefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers? and commit ye whoredom after their abominations?

Thus saith the Lord God; Are ye polluted after the manner of your fathers? The interrogation implies a strong affirmation, as in Ezekiel 20:4, 'Are ye not polluted? etc. Do ye not commit whoredom?' etc. Or, connecting this verse with Ezekiel 20:31, 'Are ye thus polluted, etc., and yet (do ye expect that) I shall be inquired of by you?


Verse 31

For when ye offer your gifts, when ye make your sons to pass through the fire, ye pollute yourselves with all your idols, even unto this day: and shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will not be inquired of by you.

When ye make your sons to pass through the fire. As "the fire" is omitted in Ezekiel 20:26, Fairbairn represents the generation here referred to (namely, that of Ezekiel's day) as attaining the climax of guilt (see note, Ezekiel 20:26), in making their children pass through the fire, which that former generation did not. The reason, however, for the omission of "the fire" in Ezekiel 20:26 is, perhaps, that there it is implied the children only "passed through the fire" for purification, whereas here they are actually burnt to death before the idol; and therefore "the fire" is specified in the latter, not in the former case (cf. 2 Kings 3:26-27, "The king of Moab ... took his oldest son ... and offered him for a burnt offering").


Verse 32

And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.

That which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the pagan - and so escape the odium to which we are exposed, of having a special God and law of our own. 'We shall live on better terms with them by having a similar worship). Besides, we get from God nothing but threats and calamities, whereas the pagan, Chaldeans, etc., get riches and power from their idols.' How literally God's words here ("that ... shall not be at all") are fulfilled in the modern Jews. Though the Jews seemed so likely (had Ezekiel spoken as an uninspired man) to have blended with the rest of mankind, and laid aside their distinctive peculiarities, as was their wish at that time, yet they have remained for eighteen centuries dispersed among all nations, and without a home, but still most palpably distinct-a standing witness for the truth of the prophecy given so long ago.


Verse 33

As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you:

As I live, saith the Lord God, surely with a mighty hand ... will I rule over you. Here begins the second division of the prophecy. This second part extends to Ezekiel 20:44, where the chapter ought properly to end. Lest the covenant-people should abandon their distinctive hopes, and amalgamate with the surrounding pagan, he tells them that, as the wilderness journey from Egypt was made subservient to discipline, and also to the taking from among them the rebellious, so a severe discipline (such as the Jews are now for long actually undergoing) should be administered to them during the next exodus for the same purpose (Ezekiel 20:38), and so to prepare them for the restored possessions of their land (Hosea 2:14-15). This was only partially fulfilled before and at the return from Babylon: its full and final accomplishment is future.

With a mighty hand ... will I rule over you. I will assert my right over you in spite of your resistance (Ezekiel 20:32), as a master would in the case of his slave; and I will not let you be wrested from me, because of my regard to my covenant.


Verse 34

And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out.

I will bring you out from the people. The Jews in exile might think themselves set free from the "rule" of God (Ezekiel 20:33); therefore He intimates He will re-assert His right over them by chastening judgments, and these with an ultimate view, not to destroy, but to restore them.

People - rather, peoples.


Verse 35

And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.

I will bring you into the wilderness of the people - rather, peoples; the various peoples among whom they were to be scattered, and from whom God saith (Ezekiel 20:34) "I will bring you out." In contrast to the literal "wilderness of Egypt" (Ezekiel 20:36), "the wilderness of the peoples" is their spiritual wilderness period of trial, discipline, and purification, while exiled among the nations. As the state when they are "brought into the wilderness of the peoples," and that when they were among the peoples "from" which God was to "bring them out" (Ezekiel 20:34), are distinguished, the wilderness state probably answers partially to the transition period of discipline from the first decree for their restoration by Cyrus to the time of their complete settlement in their land, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. But the full and final fulfillment is future: the wilderness state will comprise not only the transition period of their restoration, but the beginning of their occupancy of Palestine-a time in which they shall endure the sorest of all their chastisements, to "purge out the rebels" (Ezekiel 20:38; Daniel 12:1), and then the remnant (Zech. 43:8-9; 14:2-3 ) shall "all serve God in the land" (Ezekiel 20:40). Thus the wilderness period does not denote locality, but their state intervening between their rejection and future restoration.

There will I plead with you - I will bring the matter in debate between us to an issue. Image from a plaintiff in a law court meeting the defendant "face to face." Appropriate, as God in His dealings acts not arbitrarily, but in most righteous justice (Jeremiah 2:9; Micah 6:2).


Verse 36

Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD.

Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of ... Egypt - (Numbers 14:21-29). Though God saved them out of Egypt, He afterward destroyed in the wilderness them that believed not (Jude 1:5); so, though He brought the exiles out of Babylon, yet their wilderness state of chastening discipline continued even after they were again in Canaan.


Verse 37

And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: I will cause you to pass under the rod - metaphor from a shepherd who makes his sheep pass under his rod in counting them (Leviticus 27:32; Jeremiah 33:13). Whether you will or not, ye shall be counted as mine, and so shall be subjected to my chastening discipline, with a view to my ultimate saving of the chosen remnant (Micah 7:14; cf. John 10:27-29).

I will bring you into the bond of the covenant - I will constrain you by sore chastisements to submit yourselves to the covenant to which ye are lastingly bound, though now you have cast away God's bond from you. Fulfilled in part, Nehemiah 9:8; Nehemiah 9:26; Nehemiah 9:32-38; Nehemiah 10:1-39; fully hereafter, Isaiah 54:10-13; Isaiah 52:1-2.


Verse 38

And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

(Zechariah 13:9; Zechariah 14:2).

I will purge out from among you the rebels - or, 'separate.' [Hebrew, baarowtiy (Hebrew #1305), 'Barothi,' forming a designed alliteration with b


Verse 39

As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.

Go ye, serve ye every one his idols ... but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols. Equivalent to, 'I would rather have you open idolaters than hypocrites, fancying you can worship me, and yet at the same time serve idols' (Amos 5:21-22; Amos 5:25-26 : cf. 1 Kings 18:21; 2 Kings 17:41; Matthew 6:24; Revelation 3:15-16). 'Go ye, serve idols,' is not a command to serve idols, but a judicial declaration of God's giving up of the half-idol, half-Yahweh worshippers to utter idolatry, if they will not serve Yahweh alone (Psalms 81:12; Revelation 22:11). And hereafter also - God anticipates the same apostasy afterward, as now.


Verse 40

For in mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the firstfruits of your oblations, with all your holy things.

For - though ye, the rebellious portion, withdraw from my worship, others, even the believing remnant, will succeed after you perish, and will serve me purely.

In mine holy mountain - (Isaiah 2:2-3). Zion, or Moriah, "the height of Israel" (pre-eminent above all mountains because of the manifested presence of God there with Israel), as opposed to their "high places," the worship on which was an abomination to God.

There shall all - not merely individuals, such as constitute the election Church now; but the whole nation, to be followed by the conversion of the Gentile nations (Isaiah 2:2, "all nations;" Romans 11:26; Revelation 11:15).

With - rather, 'in all your holy things' (Maurer).


Verse 41

I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen.

I will accept you with your sweet savour - i:e., in respect to your sweet savour (literally, savour of rest, note, Ezekiel 16:19). Or, I will accept you (your worship) 'as a sweet savour' (Maurer). (Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 4:18.) God first accepts the person in Messiah, then the offering (Ezekiel 20:40; Genesis 4:4).

When I bring you out from the people ... - the same words as in Ezekiel 20:34; but there applied to the bringing forth of the hypocrites, as well as the elect; here restricted to the saved remnant, who alone shall be at last restored, literally and spiritually, in the fullest sense.

And I will be sanctified in you before the heathen - (Jeremiah 33:9). All the nations will acknowledge my power displayed in restoring you, and so shall be led to seek me (Isaiah 66:18; Zechariah 14:16-19).


Verse 42

And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 43

And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed.

There - not merely in exile, when suffering punishment, which makes even reprobates be sorry for sin, but when received into favour in your own land.

Shall ye remember your ways - (Ezekiel 16:61; Ezekiel 16:63). The humiliation of Judah (Nehemiah 9:1-38) is a type of the future penitence of the whole nation (Hosea 5:15; Hosea 6:1; Zechariah 12:10-14): God's goodness realized by the sinner is the only thing that leads to true repentance (Hosea 3:5; Luke 7:37-38).


Verse 44

And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have wrought with you for my name's sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.

And ye shall know that I am the Lord. The chapter ought to have ended here, and Ezekiel 21:1-32 begun with "Moreover," etc.

When I have wrought with you for my name's sake - (Ezekiel 36:22). Gratuitously, according to my compassion, not your merits. After having commented on this verse, Calvin was laid on his death-bed, and his commentary ended.


Verses 45-49

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me. An introductory brief description, in enigma, of the destruction by fire and sword detailed more explicitly in Ezekiel 21:1-32.

Verse 46. Set thy face toward the south ... south ... south - three different Hebrew words, to express the certainty of the divine displeasure resting on the region specified. The third term [ negeb (Hebrew #5045)] is from a root meaning dry, referring to the sun's heat in the south; representing the burning judgments of God on the southern parts of Judea, of which Jerusalem was the capital.

Set thy face - determinately. The prophets used to turn themselves toward those who were to be the subjects of their prophecies.

Drop thy word - as the rain, which flows in a continuous stream, sometimes gently (Deuteronomy 32:2), sometimes violently (Amos 7:16; Micah 2:6, margin), as here.

The forest of the south field - the densely populated country of Judea; trees representing people.

Verse 47. Behold, I will kindle a fire - every kind of judgment (Ezekiel 19:12; Ezekiel 21:3, "my sword;" Jeremiah 21:14).

It shall devour every green tree ... and every dry - fit and unfit materials for fuel alike; "the righteous and the wicked," as explained in Ezekiel 21:3-4; Luke 23:31. Implying the unsparing universality of the judgment.

The flaming flame - one continued and unextinguished flame. 'The glowing flame' (Fairbairn).

All faces - all persons; here the metaphor is merged in the reality.

Verse 49. Ah Lord God! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables? Ezekiel complains that by this parabolic form of prophecy he only makes himself and it a jest to his countrymen. God therefore in Ezekiel 21:1-32 permits him to express the same prophecy more plainly.

Remarks:

(1) Though God saith, as to His people, "I will yet for this be inquired of" (Ezekiel 36:37), still, in the case of those whose hearts are deliberately hardened against doing His will. He refuses to be inquired of (Ezekiel 20:3). Instead of instruction in the theoretical knowledge of His ways, such sinners need stern reproof and judicial conviction of the sins of both themselves and their fathers (Ezekiel 20:4). There are times of judgment as well as times of mercy. When the latter are come to a close, judgment must begin.

(2) God did great things for Israel in five periods of their history, and yet in all five they grievously rebelled against Him: first, in Egypt, then in the wilderness, then on the borders of Canaan, when a new generation had arisen, then in Canaan, the good and pleasant land, and lastly, in the times of the prophet. How sad it is that the history of the visible Church is almost nothing else than an account of God's mercies abused and slighted, and His long-suffering tried to the uttermost with ever new provocations! (3) In Egypt God revealed Himself to His people as the faithful, covenant-keeping Yahweh, fulfilling His promises to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in undertaking to deliver Israel out of the house of their bondage, and in spying out for them the choicest of countries, Canaan - "the land of desire," "the glory of all lands" - as their home and resting-place (Ezekiel 20:6). But as privileges and responsibilities go together, God required of them to "cast away every man the abominations of his eyes" and to "forsake the idols of Egypt" (Ezekiel 20:7-8). This reasonable command, which was designed for their own good, the perverse people disregarded. The wrath of God was therefore kindled against them; but from a regard to His everlasting covenant, and the glory of His great name, lest it should be polluted before the pagan, He still spared them. The same history is virtually re-enacted in the case of the visible Church. Delivered out of the bondage of Judaism and paganism, through the blood of Christ's everlasting covenant, and having the glorious promise of the heavenly Canaan the land of desire, the rest that remaineth for the people of God-and having this only obligation laid on her, to give up the works of Satan, pride, and malice, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh, she has sadly forgotten her high calling, and has in all ages and denominations in a great measure conformed to the Egyptian spirit, aims, and fashions of the world.

(4) In the wilderness, at Sinai, God formally gave His people His statutes (Ezekiel 20:11), and re-instituted His Sabbaths (Ezekiel 20:12) to be "a sign between Him and His people," at once a badge of their separation from the surrounding world and dedication to Him, and at the same time a mean of their "sanctifications." Yet even in the wilderness, where their very existence for a day was a miracle of God's bounty, they, with monstrous and unnatural ingratitude, turned upon the hand that fed them, and "despised God's judgments," in the doing of which in faith they might have found the means of the outward expression of spiritual life (Ezekiel 20:13): but their heart was at fault, and went after their idols. The result was, God swore in His wrath that none of that generation, except Caleb and Joshua, should enter into His rest (Ezekiel 20:15; Psalms 95:11). Let us remember that the observance or non-observance of the Sabbath has in all times and places been a thermometer to measure the degree of religions warmth or coldness of the professing worshippers of God. Wherever it and the other ordinances of God are either slighted altogether, or not obeyed in the inner spirituality of God's requirement, it is a plain proof that the "heart" (Ezekiel 20:16) is as yet given to the world and self, and not to God. In such a state there can be no entrance for the sinner into the heavenly land flowing with milk and honey (Ezekiel 20:15), to which the penitent believer is so graciously invited (Isaiah 55:1).

(5) Even the succeeding generation proved to be no better than the one that through rebellion fell in the wilderness (Ezekiel 20:18-21). Not warned by the awful example of their fathers, the children walked in their steps, and so incurred similar punishment. Then it was that God threatened to scatter and disperse the apostate nation among the Gentiles (Ezekiel 20:23). And forasmuch as "their eyes were after their 'fathers' idols" (Ezekiel 20:24), instead of regaling God's statutes, which were for their own good, He, in righteous retribution, gave them up to their fathers' statutes, which were not for their good, but which first spiritually corrupted, and then destroyed them (Ezekiel 20:25).

It is fatal to the soul to follow the traditions of the fathers, as Rome would have us to do, in that which, according to the revealed and written statutes of God, is "not good" God makes the apostate's sin his punishment. Them who pollute His Sabbaths He pollutes in their own gifts (Ezekiel 20:26), judicially giving them up to their own corrupting and self-destroying delusions. Thus at last, and when too late, they will "know" Yahweh as an avenging Judge, since they refused to know Him as a loving Father and, Friend (Ezekiel 20:26).

(6) Settled at length in Canaan, "yet" even still the people visually blasphemed and insulted God. (Ezekiel 20:27). Their very offerings were a "provocation" (Ezekiel 20:28), because they were offered on high places, and in a manner they were offered on high places, and in a manner utterly at variance with God's express command that in the temple at Jerusalem alone should sacrifices be presented to Him (Ezekiel 20:29-30). Will-worship, and a religion of men's own devising, is full measure of guilt by burning to death their sons in honour of the the ruin of millions.

(7) The generation of Ezekiel's times filled up the idol Moloch (Ezekiel 20:31). Their thought and design in these pagan usages was, they wished to avoid the reproach of singularity, and not to be taunted by their pagan neighbours as worshipping an invisible God (Ezekiel 20:32). How many there are who compromise their religion for the sake of conciliating the favour of the world, who would be decided in the denial of worldly lusts, were it not that they fear to be thought singular, loving the praise of men more than the praise of God!

(8) How strikingly the truth of Revelation is established by the present state of the Jews, dispersed in all lands, yet distinct from all; not, like all other intermingled races, amalgamating with those in whose country they dwell, as it would be natural to expect, and as they themselves wished ("We will be as the families of the countries," Ezekiel 20:32), but kept definitely separate! Why is this? Simply because God said it almost two thousand four hundred years ago and therefore it is so.

(9) Mercy is finally in store for Israel after the long discipline of ages has worked its designed effect. God counts the people as still His own (Ezekiel 20:37, note) by virtue of His everlasting covenant. He will re-assert His claim to them, and make them to pass by a second exodus into "the wilderness of the peoples" (Hebrew), with a view to ultimately restoring them, after He has "pleaded with them here, and brought them under the bond of His covenant" (Ezekiel 20:35-37). The rebels shall be purged out by awful judgments (Daniel 12:1), and the elect remnant, as the nucleus of the new nation, shall be saved (Ezekiel 20:8; Zechariah 13:8-9; Zechariah 14:2-3). God will regard as rebels all who offer Him a divided allegiance and a divided hears (Ezekiel 20:39). We cannot serve idols and serve the Lord at one and the same time. Even an open denial of God-awful and fatal as it must be if it continues-is a less dangerous state than that of hypocritical formalism: for the former does not deceive men as the latter does.

The openly irreligious may at some time be reclaimed when the Word of God is brought to bear on him; but what shall reclaim to God the man who, within hearing of the Word of God, affects to worship Him, while all the while his heart is given to self and worldly idols? But the elect remnant God will finally "accept in the mountain of the height of Israel." There, when they have been received back into God's favour through the marvelous and unlooked-for grace of God (Ezekiel 20:43; Ezekiel 16:63), true repentance shall be worked in the elect nation by the Holy Spirit, while on the one hand they remember with loathing their own past ways, and while on the other hand they see and feel the gracious work of God in their behalf, to the praise of the glory of His grace, so contrary to all that they could have looked for. Nothing but the gratuitous goodness of God experimentally known by the sinner can produce repentance in its fullest sense. The believer is melted into sorrow for sin, and his stubborn heart is overcome by the marvelous kindness of God. Let not this instructive history be as a dark and unintelligible "parable to us (Ezekiel 20:40); but let us seek to have the true circumcision of heart, and to be of the spiritual Israel of God, that we may share in the coming blessedness of those who shall inherit the heavenly Canaan!

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 20:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ezekiel-20.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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